Guest Columnist: Down and out in Kitsap County: A college grad's guide to surviving unemployment

For all you recent graduates out there, congratulations, but be warned: In this dog eat dog world you are now the equivalent of a milk bone.

A few years ago I too was a recent college graduate. With degree in hand it was my understanding that the world was at my fingertips and for a time it was. I was still a dreamer, blissfully unaware of a larger economic crisis brewing that would not only control my fate, but the fate of millions across the country.

It took a company wide downsize, and the personal experience of being out of work, to learn the lesson that your personal ambition while living the American dream often doesn’t mesh with the unpredictable realm of reality. Without a regular paycheck I found myself thrown in the muck with the rest of the recently laid off workers.

Every laid off worker handles unemployment differently. For young adults like myself unemployment was a series of lessons which had to be learned. Lesson one; Cut back on all non-essential items. The unpredictability of your financial situation once you no longer are receiving a paycheck should make you think twice about how you will spend what savings you have, and what little income you will be receiving from the unemployment security office. So, wave goodbye to your Xbox Live account, eating out with your friends and perhaps the most devastating sacrifice of all, cable TV. If you really need to stretch the budget I found that hotels holding business conventions are a great place to network for future employment, grab a quick bite to eat from the catered buffet and pick up a few toiletries off of the maid cart. Beware, the longer your sentence of unemployment the more you have to sacrifice, so learn to live off a shoestring budget early.

As an unemployed worker in 2009, the sacrifices I made were my job, my girlfriend, my apartment, and, most importantly, my independence when I was forced to move back in with my folks. Influenced by George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London,” I consider myself adept at living on next to nothing, and from this experience I have gained new insight on the world I once viewed with such optimism.

My younger self would have viewed the world as a cup half full. Only upon closer inspection did I realize that this cup has holes in it.

Michael Erickson lives in Seabeck

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